Popular among college students, Adderall has gained a reputation as a study drug used to improve focus and academic performance. Reports indicate that many don’t see taking Adderall recreationally as a cause for concern, however, it can have serious side effects and can lead to addiction.
Adderall is a prescription amphetamine used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and some sleep disorders. Using Adderall can make people feel energetic, focused or high and this makes it a target for abuse.
Adderall can be very beneficial for people with ADHD, but there are risks associated with taking it. Importantly, Adderall use with or without a prescription can lead to addiction. Learning the signs, symptoms and causes of Adderall addiction can help to prevent it.
How is Adderall Abused?
Adderall can be misused by anyone, but it is particularly common among college students. Adderall is abused by using it without a prescription, taking it to get high or taking it differently than how it was prescribed. It’s often abused in order to improve concentration, memory or academic grades.
Adderall typically comes in a tablet or liquid form and is taken orally. Adderall tablets can also be crushed into a powder and snorted or dissolved into liquid and injected, but the latter is less common.
People who are prescribed Adderall can still abuse the drug by taking it more frequently or in higher doses than what is recommended for them. People abusing Adderall may also doctor-shop to get multiple prescriptions, use other people’s prescription Adderall or buy the drug illegally.
Adderall Addiction Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of Adderall addiction can depend on the type and severity of use.
Someone who is addicted to Adderall might show physical and emotional symptoms, but they might also be extremely secretive about their drug use.
- Physical Dependence vs. Addiction
Physical dependence and addiction are similar concepts but have some key differences. Firstly, drug dependence and drug addiction affect different parts of the brain. While dependence describes the physical reliance on Adderall, addiction usually describes related behaviors.
When someone is physically dependent on Adderall, it means that their body begins to rely on the drug to function normally. Dependence can influence addiction, which includes behaviors like obsessively seeking or not caring about the consequences of taking the drug. Addictive behaviors go beyond what would be considered normal or reasonable when using Adderall as prescribed.
- Physical Signs
One sign of physical signs of Adderall addiction is tolerance, where a higher dose of the drug is needed to get the desired effect. Addiction to Adderall can also include withdrawal symptoms, like fatigue or trouble sleeping, if a person stops taking the drug.
People who are frequently using Adderall might experience a rush or feelings of euphoria when they take the drug. The physical signs, like increased heartbeat or breathing, might not be obvious to other people.
- Behavioral Signs
As with most types of addiction, people addicted to Adderall will appear very interested or secretive about accessing Adderall. People who are addicted to Adderall might become tense or aggressive if they aren’t able to access Adderall. Abuse of Adderall can be accompanied by changes in behavior, and people might seem angry or paranoid.
Adderall Addiction Side Effects
Using Adderall safely should be guided by a doctor, and abusing Adderall increases the risk of serious, life-threatening side effects. The effects of Adderall addiction can be short term or they can have a long-term impact on physical and mental health. The safest way to avoid Adderall addiction side effects is to avoid non-medical or recreational use.
As a stimulant, the short-term effects of Adderall can feel like a rush or high. This is caused by increased heart rate, rate of breathing, and blood sugar levels. If taken in high doses, the short-term side effects of Adderall can include:
When Adderall is abused long term, there are several potential side effects. Long-term Adderall abuse can produce side effects like psychosis, aggression or heart problems. People who inject Adderall are also at risk of contracting HIV.
Using or abusing Adderall over a long period can severely impair a person’s ability to live a healthy and normal life. As with overdose, a high-risk dose for negative health effects can vary greatly from person to person.
Abusing Adderall alongside other drugs, like alcohol or Xanax, can make the side effects more unpleasant and severe. As a stimulant, Adderall can make it hard to tell when someone has had too much alcohol or Xanax, which act as depressants. Taking Adderall with other drugs can increase the risk of overdose and death.
What Causes Adderall Addiction?
Adderall addiction can be caused by different factors, including a person’s personality, how long they’ve been using Adderall for and changes in their brain. Adderall affects the brain’s reward system, specifically a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is released naturally during positive experiences and is increased by taking Adderall.
People may also enjoy the improved concentration and focus effects of taking Adderall. The positive feelings that occur when taking Adderall can make it addictive. This effect can happen gradually. The body can slowly come to rely on Adderall to function normally. Adderall addiction can happen as a result of both prescription and recreational use of the drug; both of which can have serious side effects.
Adderall Abuse Facts and Statistics
Prescription amphetamines have a long history of misuse and abuse. Drug abuse can happen to anyone, but Adderall abuse statistics suggest that college-aged students are most likely to abuse Adderall. Rates of Adderall abuse and related visits to the emergency department have increased among 18 to 25-year-olds, despite no changes to the amount it’s prescribed. These Adderall abuse facts show that young people are particularly at risk for Adderall abuse.
Adderall Abuse and Treatment Trends in South Florida
Adderall is a controlled substance in many states, and getting Adderall in Florida requires a prescription. Adderall is covered by Florida prescription laws in order to reduce abuse and misuse. For medical purposes, Adderall can be prescribed by doctors for certain conditions, including ADHD and narcolepsy.
Can You Overdose on Adderall?
Using Adderall safely includes following a doctor’s instructions for the dose and frequency of the drug. Using Adderall differently than prescribed or recreationally can lead to an Adderall overdose.
An Adderall overdose can have long-term consequences for health and daily functioning. Importantly, what is considered a dangerous dose of Adderall varies from person to person. A dose that is considered safe for one person can be deadly for another. There is no set Adderall overdose amount, which makes following a prescribed dose extremely important.
Adderall Overdose Symptoms
- Tremors or shakes
- Rapid breathing
- Panic or confusion
These Adderall overdose symptoms are serious and require urgent medical attention. Without a prescription and medical advice, it is difficult to know the appropriate dose of Adderall. Taking too much Adderall can have long-term and serious consequences, including death.
Adderall Addiction Treatment
Detox is usually the first stage of recovery, and Adderall detox involves the physical process of Adderall leaving the body. Detoxing can include symptoms and side effects, and should be medically supervised for safety and comfort.
Adderall addiction rehab in a residential facility is also known as inpatient treatment. This treatment involves living in a hospital or medical center to complete the first stages or recovery. Residential Adderall rehab often includes detox and can also include structured therapy sessions.
Outpatient Adderall rehab includes medical supervision to allow the patient to slowly stop taking Adderall, as well as group or individual therapy to address underlying reasons for abusing Adderall. Outpatient treatment can be best suited for those without any other substance abuse or mental health disorders.
- Dual Diagnosis
In circumstances where patients have a diagnosis of both Adderall addiction and another mental health condition, dual diagnosis treatment is the most appropriate. Treatment must address both conditions, and rehab for Adderall abuse should be started first in order for mental health treatment to be successful.
Seeking treatment for Adderall addiction can be nerve-wracking for some people, but can be life-changing and even life-saving. There are many different types of treatments available for those suffering from a substance use disorder. The best type of treatment can depend on the starting dose, length of addiction and any co-occurring substance use or mental health disorders. Knowing the treatment options can help in selecting the treatment that’s best for you.
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Key Points: Understanding Adderall Abuse
Keep the following key points in mind regarding Adderall abuse:
- Adderall addiction can happen even if a person is following their prescription
- The side effects of Adderall abuse can include irritability, heart problems, overdose or death
- Any recreational dose of Adderall is dangerous; a dose that might not affect one person may be enough to cause overdose or death in another
- Treatment for Adderall addiction will usually include detox as well as therapy for addiction either in an inpatient or outpatient setting
- Recovery from Adderall addiction is an ongoing process, but can improve health, functioning and quality of life
Contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health to speak with a representative about how professional addiction treatment can put you on the path toward a healthier future.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Prescription Stimulants.” June 2018. Accessed August 1, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction: 10: Addiction vs. Dependence.” January 2007. Accessed August 1, 2019.
DeSantis, Alan; Hane, Audrey. ““Adderall is Definitely Not a Drug”: Justifications for the Illegal Use of ADHD Stimulants.” Substance Use and Misuse, 2010. Accessed August 1, 2019.
Sherzada, Awista “An Analysis of ADHD Drugs: Ritalin and Adderall.” JCCC Honors Journal, 2012. Accessed August 1, 2019.
Food and Drug Administration. “Adderall (CII).” March 2007. Accessed August 1, 2019.
John Hopkins University. “Adderall Misuse Rising Among Young Adults.” February 16, 2016, Accessed August 1, 2019.
Hanson C; et al. “Tweaking and Tweeting: Exploring Twitter for Nonmedical Use of a Psychostimulant Drug (Adderall) Among College Students.”J Med Internet Res, April 17, 2013. Accessed August 1, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.